Part one of chapter eight: https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work/MaybeAnd...
The Fallen King
Liam has gone down to the village to do some shopping and is seeing the consequences of being a Keeper.
Walking through the alleys and streets of Lownire, Liam saw many houses that had been affected by the storm. There were chimneys that had crashed into the streets, roofs that had blown off, and bridges that had been destroyed in floods. Around each of these ruins was a group of people helping clean up and rebuild.
Liam spotted a friend or two, Old and Young Frank - old frank being a 94 year old with all the energy of his fifteen-year-old grandson, young frank- Connor Stillworth - the carpenter’s son who Liam shared toys with when he was young - and Jack - who was a couple months older than Liam and the handsome heartthrob of every girl in town.
But these men and boys looked at him differently now. Liam had always been separate, true. Everyone else lived every moment of every day within the wall, but for most of his childhood, he only visited in summers and festivals, but now it was more than that.
He wasn’t quite their equal any longer. They looked at him with respect but also a wary nervousness, like he might give them a task to do or bring bad news. Keeperhood now stood between him and his old friends.
Liam pushed on past all of them and to Cormac’s home. Cormac was one of the only two of his old friends who still treated him the same now that he was a Keeper.
Sitric and Maria’s house looked relatively unaffected by the storm. The garden was ripped up, and the roof was looking worse for wear, but all in all, the solidly built house seemed to prove the skill of its ancient makers.
Inside, the family was doing well. All of the children were playing a game of cards, and the mother and the baby were napping. Cormac reported that Sitric was at the Keep and would be there until midafternoon, but he invited Liam to lunch before going to find him.
Over lunch, Liam proposed his plan of Cormac helping him take the supplies back. As Liam had expected, Cormac loved the idea.
“I’ll have to ask my father, though, since I need his approval for things under the apprenticeship,” Cormac said. Cormac was the apprentice to his father and had been since his fourteenth year. “When you’re done with your apprenticeship to your dad and the time comes for the rest of those turning sixteen to begin training for the watch, what will you do? Train with a bunch of amateurs?” Liam asked as they began to clean their dishes in the basin by the sink.
“When I start training, the others will be learning the sword and spear, but I’ll be learning how to be a leader. Since my dad is the Keeper of the Walls, I’ll be Squire Captain and be leading the others through their training.”
“And you automatically become Squire Captain, then?” Liam asked, scrubbing away the last evidence of the meal in the cold water.
“Yes and no, Squire Captain is a role reserved for whoever is rightfully the next Keeper of the Walls. Only someone who has previously been Squire Captain can be the Keeper. Right now, Finn is Squire Captain, but once training starts this spring, I will be Squire Captain until I’m Keeper.” Cormac explained. Cormac was not a deeply emotional person, but Liam could hear the controlled pride in his voice as he spoke of the title.
Liam dried off his plate. “I have full confidence you will be a great squire captain. You will bravely lead the young men of our village through digging ditches,” Liam said, throwing his arms out in front of himself dramatically.
Cormac laughed. They had both seen most of the early training of the watch. For the first couple of months, a lot of it was hard labor and preparing for spring. “It takes a lot of bravery to face the prospect of sweating your rear end off while Finn and some farmers yell at you.”
“I admit, that is bravery I don’t have. Good thing my Keeperhood exempts me from training with you all.”
The front door of the Keep slammed closed behind them louder than they had intended. Both the boys winced as it echoed throughout the large building.
And that’s when they noticed the singing. The stone chapel reflected and reverberated a choir of powerful voices. It wasn’t just echoing around the building. It was almost like the entire Keep was an instrument, vibrating with countless complimentary notes.
Near the front of the chapel, there was a choir of twenty young women, all singing in the King’s Speech. Not all of them were singing the same words, or even words at all - some of them were merely vocalizing, but together the notes became more complete.
Liam and Cormac both straightened up, both trying to look like they hadn’t accidentally just slammed the door.
In their sixteenth year, youths of both genders trained under one of the Keepers. The boys trained under the Keeper of the Wall, and the girls under the Keeper of the Well. The males learned to fight, but the females learned reading, writing, history, philosophy, and purity.
But most importantly, they learned to sing.
As Liam was able to listen for a moment, he realized they were singing the song of the Offering. With a choir of the well-trained women, the song was powerful, vibrating the very soul and speaking to the ancient stone walls. There were no instruments, just human voices layered upon human voices, echoing against each other in the chapel and filling it with power.
‘One of these girls will die by those words,’ Liam reminded himself. That is why they learned to sing.
It was a powerful song when they sang it together in that chapel, but it would be even more powerful when just one voice sang it. When one voice sang it alone in a dark clearing with the authority of the entire village and their own life, those words would become more than words.
Liam couldn’t help but wonder if Arwen had been able to notice the beauty of the song when she had been singing them.
Of course, she had, Liam realized. ‘She was Arwen. She always noticed.
Liam felt a bubbling rage rising in him. Why did the song that represented something so terrible have to be so intensely beautiful? Why every year did the Keepers, send a girl off to her death? Why did it have to be that why? Why had the ancient one, in his wisdom, ordained this tradition of death.
Liam realized that one of the girls was looking at him with great attention. This revelation immediately caused the dark shatter. - He was a fifteen-year-old boy, after all.
It seemed their loud door closer had drawn the attention of some of the girls, but one was looking at him with more than curiosity. She was one of the youngest in the choir, most were about a year old than him, but she was probably very near his age.
She was quite pretty, with dark hair and large eyes that she was watching him with. He looked back at her. She smiled.
This interaction became too intense for the young Keeper, and he looked away. He thought her name was Anna. He believed she was the daughter of a cattle farmer. He hadn’t thought of her much up until that point, but that seemed about to change. Liam glanced over at Cormac. His face was red, and he was studying the floor with great curiosity. Liam held in a laugh and glanced back up at the singers. Standing near the back was the tall and stunning Beth, the daughter of the tailor and quite beautiful. She, too, was looking at her feet bashfully. She had been Cormac’s sweetheart since they were children, and the two still had no idea how to interact. They must have both surprised each other.
Liam shoved Cormac. “What’s of such interest down there on the ground?” He whispered.
Cormac glared at him, “What? I mean nothing… I-” He stammered. He cleared his throat and straightened up. “The architecture, of course.” He said plainly.
Liam snickered, and Cormac tried to maintain the unaffected expression but broke into a broad smile at his cousin’s laughter.
They glanced down the long aisle that led past the choir and to the well. They would have to walk that entire distance in view of all the young women. Worst of all, they’d have to act like they weren’t thinking about it.
“After you,” Liam said, gesturing forward. Cormac shrugged and took the lead.
The two walked down the center aisle as quietly and confidently as they could. They passed the choir, letting a sigh of relief out as they passed behind the girls and stepped into the circular space where the well sat.
High above, a domed filled with stained glass window lets light filter down to the well. Stone steps in a semi-circle went up the far wall. They were where the choir stood when actually performing.
The well itself was lowered into the ground slightly, two stone steps leading down from the floor to the garden of the white flowers. The ever-blooming flowers were like an iris around the pupil of the dark well.
The water was perfectly smooth and clearer than glass. The stone walls beneath it descend down like a tunnel into dark blue depths. It looked like it could go forever.
Sitting on the steps above the well, with a pitcher by her feet, and reading a book, was Gwendalion.
Liam knew she was probably going to be there, so he was fully prepared to greet her. Because of this, he did not even feel too caught off guard by her pretty green dress and the smile she gave as she saw him.
Gwen, Cormac, and Liam all greeted each other fondly. The three Keeper’s children had always been friends. For the obvious reasons, Cormac and Liam were cousins, Gwen’s older brother had been good friends with Liam’s sister, and their parents were always talking. But there was something more there, a deeper connection. The three knew that weight. They knew what it was like to have parents that were respected and feared. Loved by some for the city’s successes and even hated by others for the catastrophes.
The reverent light the Lownire saw the Keepers in was also reflected off onto their children. They had been just a little different since birth, and for more reasons than just their parentage. Cormac was training to be the Keeper of the Walls, Gwendoline was studying to be a loremaster, a greatly respected calling, and Liam lived far away from everyone in the mysterious lighthouse.
Because of this shared experience, they could treat each other as equals. Even when others couldn’t.
But then suddenly, and much earlier than anyone had expected, one of them had become a Keeper.
Liam had been relieved to find his Keepership did not change his relationship with Cormac and Gwen. Well, Cormac tried calling him Sir once, but that earned him a punch, and he never tried it again.
Gwen was very entertained by Liam’s whispered telling of Cormac and Beth’s bashful notice of each other. Luckily, Cormac hadn’t seen Liam’s own little exchange, so he only added to the story with a blush and a glance back at Beth. The choir was much too far away and the singing much too loud for them to hear, but Liam knew Cormac’s fears were not entirely sensical. The kid could barely face most girls, but Liam bet Cormac would have been excited to face a charging Austermen.
Gwen sighed as she finished laughing. Gwen laughed easily. “Besides finding your true love in the choir, do you two need anything? Lastrios, perhaps?” She asked, pointing at the barrel in Liam’s hands.
“Yeah, and we are here to meet with Sitric and Hugh,” Liam said, setting down the barrel on the last step.
“They’re in a meeting with farmers. They’ll probably be out here in a moment,” Gwen responded, pulling the plug out of the barrel. She took the pitcher and disrupted the surface of the smooth water with it. As she poured the water into the barrel, the ripples dissipated, and it was smooth again. Lastrios was strange like that. It always seemed to settle back to its soft state impossibly quickly.
Gwen did the work quietly, and Cormac sat down. Liam just watched the water ripple and clear, listening to the sounds of the singing and the swishing of the water.
“How far does it go down, you think?” Liam asked, staring deep into it.
Lastrios water - supposedly made from a single tear from the old one. So pure, a cup of it could clean a whole bucket of seawater.
“You’d have to ask my dad,” Gwen said, pouring another pitcherful into Liam’s barrel. “He went down into it once.”
“Wait, really?” Cormac asked. The well was the village’s source of purity. Not just anyone could touch it. That’s why Gwen was getting it for Liam.
“To prove his purity. He did it before becoming the Keeper of the Well.” She smiled. “But it can’t be too deep. The catacombs are under here.” The catacombs, where the countless dusty old books were kept.
Liam made a thoughtful, ‘hm’ sound and continued staring at the well.
Cormac and Gwen glanced at each other and then back at Liam.
“Liam, Cormac, and I have been wanting to talk with you,” Gwen said. Cormac nodded as if for support.
Liam looked away from the well in surprise. “What about?”
“We’re worried about you,” Gwen said awkwardly.
“Oh no. What am I in trouble for this time?” Liam jested.
“No, no. You’ve been doing amazingly.” Gwen said quickly, “We’ve just been thinking, Keeperhood is a hard job, even for the best and most experienced. Sometimes it still drags my dad down.”
“Okay,” Liam said, unsure of where this was going.
“And we are really impressed how you’ve been handling that,” Gwen continued.
“Thanks,” Liam said, still confused.
We just think that lately, you’ve been...” Gwen began, trying to find the right word.
“Lonely,” Cormac said.
Gwen nodded quickly and continued before Liam could object. “Yeah, we were thinking. I know you have been avoiding it, but maybe you should pick a temporary apprentice. Who knows if they’ll be the next Keeper, but someone at least to work with until you can pick the right one. Someone who you can train, so you’re not just alone up there all the time.”
“Yeah, it might help to have um, help,” Cormac added eloquently.
“Well said,” Liam responded. He bit the inside of his cheek. Neither of them knew about Grandpa yet, did they? He had thought maybe their parents would tell them, but they hadn’t, and he hadn’t been able to in the rush of the past couple of days.
“I understand why it seems silly to pick an apprentice so soon,” Gwen said. Gwen was good at that, understanding. “But you don’t have to make them the next Keeper. They could just be someone to train and help with the chores, for now. So you don’t have to do everything by yourself.”
Liam realized she’d interpreted his thoughtful look as stress at picking an apprentice. Reasonably so, he had been avoiding that duty. He had been avoiding all duties, actually.
Liam laughed, both to show that he was no longer stressed about that and because he had just realized he wasn’t. Yes, Grandpa back meant that he’d have someone telling him what to do, but it also meant he would have someone telling him what to do! He wouldn’t have to worry about always trying to figure out what he should do next to keep the light or fear. If something terrible happened, it would be Grandpa’s fault. If Liam forgot something important, Grandpa could remember it. He realized that was another reason it had been hard to be sullen earlier. The weight of all possible futures and decisions had stopped weighing on him. At least, for now.
“Well, your consideration is very kind, but no need. That problem has already been solved. I am no longer alone in the lighthouse,” Liam said, leaning against the wall with a smile. He hadn’t consciously realized how mentally relieving it was to not be in charge. He wouldn’t have to try to figure out his future anymore. Grandpa was going to be training him. Sure, he didn’t like the idea of being a Keeper, but at least he didn’t have to worry about what he’d do as one. He’d train under Grandpa. That’s what he’d do.
Gwen looked perplexed, “Wait, you already picked an apprentice?”
“No, better yet. I am one again,” Liam said with a grin.
1. How is the dialogue between the characters? Fun? Does it show their friendship?
2. Are the transition between scenes clunky, or do they work?
3. Does the transition between sad thoughtfulness about the singing to noticing a cute girl show the duality of Liam's character?
3.2 Is the "Oh my gosh my sister died 4 years ago I sad" a bit to overdone?
Part three of chapter eight: https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work/MaybeAnd...